While we’ve experienced a relatively mild summer here in Middle Tennessee, many pet-loving friends around the country have found themselves in the middle of a heat wave this summer. We are still recovering from the summer of 2012, when we experienced record heat and temperatures up to 112 degrees for several days running. Summer heat can be particularly dangerous for our four-legged friends, so it is important to know what to look for and how to protect your pets from heat exhaustion.
Animals are not able to cool themselves as efficiently as we are. They don’t sweat, but instead pant to release body heat. Long exposure to the summer sun can cause dehydration, heat stroke and sun burn. The first and best line of defense is to monitor the weather and plan accordingly. On very hot days, try to keep your pet indoors between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. If you do venture out, be sure to avoid hot asphalt, which can burn your pet’s feet. Hold your hand to the sidewalk for a few seconds. If it is too hot for you, It is simply too hot for your furry friend. Stick to grassy lawns and quick trips out of doors.
Your pet will thank you for keeping him or her properly groomed during summer’s heat. Not only will they benefit from a shorter haircut, but the shorter hair will not mat as easily. Matted hair retains even more heat, so make an appointment with your favorite groomer for a trim at the beginning of summer. Do be aware that your pet can get sunburned. Although their fur offers some protection, they can still be burned badly on noses, ears and bellies. Lighter colored animals are at greater risk for sunburn, but dark animals experience higher body temperatures. While pet companies do make pet sunscreen, your best bet is to keep your pets in shaded areas and out of direct sunlight for long periods of time.
Keep water available for your pet if you’re spending time outdoors. The first sign of danger for your pet is symptoms of dehydration. If your pet becomes lethargic, they appear sunken eyed or have dry gums or a tacky tongue, they are experiencing dehydration. Not treated, this can lead to heat stroke with symptoms of excessive panting, salivating, staggering, vomiting and diarrhea. While most pet owners can respond to dehydration with a quick infusion of fresh water, true heat stroke requires an immediate veterinarian’s visit. Use towels soaked in cool (but not cold!) water to cool your pet on the way to the vet. Once you arrive, you can expect your pet to receive IV fluids and to be monitored until their body temperature returns to normal.
Summer time can be a wonderful time to bond with your pet in the great outdoors. Just be sure you’re armed with information and lots of fresh water for both of you before you head out!